The Sunday Times Style magazine called it a few weeks ago, naming the kebab as the must have food of 2015 (BYE burgers); Alan Yau has jumped on the bandwagon with Babaji Pide, and Just Eat say their Turkish takeaway orders have increased by 70% since 2013. It's official: 2015 is the year of the kebab.
Kebabs get a lot of stick, but I'm not talking dodgy mystery meat sticks only fit for consumption after eight pints. A properly seasoned and marinated good quality shoulder of lamb, lovingly cooked over a smoking charcoal grill and then stuffed into a steaming pita with crisp salad, pickled chillis and garlicky yoghurt is a thing of beauty, and should be celebrated.
The Centre for Turkey studies clearly agree, as last night saw the great and good of the UK Turkish food community - plus a startling number of MP's, along with minor celebs and food bloggers - descend on the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel for the third British Kebab Awards. Yes; this is real. The UK kebab industry has a turnover in excess of £750 million; it's a big deal. I was thrilled to have bagged myself a ticket to the do and had all my fingers and toes crossed for my fave local kebaberie, Likya, to retain their crown as the Best Value Restaurant 2014.
The evening got off to a great start with my plus one, Alex, scoring herself £50 worth of Just Eat vouchers (something I will be taking full advantage of).
We happily tucked into the starters of hummus, insanely smoky good babaghanoush, lamb shish and pita. Rather oddly there was also Indian Zafrani chicken, samosas and raita. The organiser, Ibrahim Dogus, suggested this was to reflect the diversity of the communities attending, but I think really they should have stuck to celebrating the wares of the Middle East.
Equally bizarrely the main was a traditional Turkish dish, chicken topkapi, a gently spiced chicken and rice affair. Tasty, but definitely not a kebab. Perhaps the organisers felt it would be something of a busman's holiday to serve up a possibly inferior doner to the industry's finest.
On to the awards. My beloved Likya were nominated in the Best Customer Satisfaction category but were inexplicably pipped to the post by their NW11 new neighbour, Durum Ocakbasi. Durum appeared at the bottom of Golders Hill about six months ago, but I have yet to visit - mostly due to the aforementioned love and loyalty for Likya. Sorry Likya, I've got to go now.
I'm making it my business to visit every one of the nominees in Central and North London for a delicious lamb shish throughout this year. Let me know if you want to join me! Look out Archway Kebab, Mangal 2 and Finchley Road Charcoal Grill because you're top of my list.
PS. I know I have some readers who will be interested to know that Mevan Ocakbasi and Deroka (both in Hitchin) were nominated, so will definitely be worth a trip. Also, Hill Bistro in Huntingdon won the Best Newcomer Outside London award...